A Day In The Life of A Camp Host, or, Every Which Way But Loose
My “work week” is 3 days on, 3 days off and on paper the day is a split shift — 11AM to 3PM and 6PM to 10PM. Ranger Amy set up the schedule nicely so that neither camp host gets stuck working all weekends.
So here’s my Expected duties:
- Act as a liaison between park visitors and park staff.
- Communicate routinely with park manager and park ranger via phone and email.
- Stay onsite overnight on designated days, in order to provide a personal touch to the needs of park visitors.
- Act as emergency contact for visitors when on duty.
- Check nightly and clean shower house, day use restrooms and vault latrine. (Paid Staff will do heavy cleaning daily.)
- Check nightly and assist with day-time emptying of trash containers and transporting to on-site dumpsters as needed.
- Pick-up litter in the day use area.
- Walk trails and day use area to look for hazards and litter, and greet visitors.
- Assist in parking vehicles and traffic control on busy days.
- Assist with grounds maintenance when needed.
It looks like a lot, but on the whole, as it doesn’t all happen all the time, it’s not that much.
How my day typically goes (keeping in mind that on paper, my day is 11AM to 3PM and then 6PM to 10PM and that this is a slight exaggeration and conglomeration of events over a week’s time):
6:45AM: Wake up
6:55AM: on days MR (maintenance staff introduced here) isn’t working drive Gator to entrance and open main gate and gate to ranger station
7:00AM: Walk down to day use restrooms. Check TP stock in stalls and restock if needed. Check TP stock in vault toilet by boat ramp. Latch door open to help dissipate the ever present vault toilet stank, that has increased overnight tenfold, due to door closure.
(the day use restroom is usually the same as it was at closing, due to, well, day use and minimal use overnight by campers in the 3 lake shore tent sites)
7:10AM: Walk to the “shower house” restroom in the main campground area, replenish TP in all the stalls
(the shower house always needs replenishing in some capacity each morning, because main restroom for campground)
7:25AM: Back to trailer. Coffee. Shower. Coffee. More coffee. Put on the itchy, annoying polo shirt (with the “volunteer” patch) because t-shirts with park logo are not clean. I hate polo shirts, itchy or not.
8:00AM: Sit down at computer, start writing blog post
8:00:30AM: Sell one $5 firewood bundle to camper that only has a $20 bill.
8:05AM: Back to computer, continue to attempt writing blog post
8:30AM: Sell a bag of $3 ice to a day use area visitor, 2 $5 bundles of wood to a camper. Both with $10 or $20 bills, requiring a draw from ‘backup cash stash for enough bills to make change for both.
8:40AM: Back to blogging.
9:15AM: Radio entry station. Confirm that checkins and checkouts from yesterday are done.
9:20AM: Run and print report. See that there are no open sites, except for 1 walk-in (a.k.a., the “no reservation, no hold/first come, first served” sites)
9:30AM: Chores. So may chores in and around the trailer.
9:40AM: Take 1st load of laundry to super-secret, on-site, hidden laundry room (it’s not that hidden, really — It’s in a the storage/utility room between the men’s and women’s rest rooms) for employee and volunteer use. Advise inquisitive camper of the same.
10:00AM: Back to staring at the computer screen and starting 2nd draft of yet to be anywhere near completed blog post
10:15AM: Sell more firewood. Sell more ice.
10:20AM: Flip “Off Duty” sign to “On Duty” because, oh well, already working anyway at this point.
10:25AM: Confer with paid staff about actual site openings vs what report indicates (early checkouts, “1 Night Only” options). The only walk-in has been taken, so no sites open.
10:25AM – 11:00AM: a lull! Oh Em Gee. Sit outside, drink coffee, enjoy the beautiful scenery. Oh look! A deer! [side note: we have a doe and her twins that have made our site part of their path to the tasty foliage down here in the main area]
11:15AM: Biker of the non-motorized kind rolls in, needing a place to rest (it’s an unusually hot, sunny day compared to the last few days) and shower after riding 100+ miles since 5AM along the continental divide, but saw that the “tent site sign said it was full”.
Montana State Parks has a “no one is turned away” policy for anyone that hikes, bikes, kayaks/canoes or otherwise comes in under their own power in to one of its campgrounds. We have dedicated hiker/biker spots and if they are full, we’ll advise them to “find a spot in the meadow [a grassy field between the designated hiker/biker spots and other camp sites] that looks comfy and settle in”. Make change for biker for the site fee and for a hot shower or two (or one really long one — showers are 6 minutes for $3). Chat a bit about their trip, how we, as a relatively young camp host, landed the sweet gig.
11:30AM: Oh, yeah… laundry! Run over to aforementioned secret laundry room and put clothes in dryer, start 2nd load.
11:40AM: Do not like blog post so far. Start over. Squirrel!
12:00PM: Lunch time. Nothing to eat. Nothing that looks appetizing anyway and we’re out of staple items. Looks like a trip to the store up the highway between shifts.
1:15PM: Notice upper day use parking is full. Walk down to lower lot to check vehicle and boat trailer parking availability. Radio entrance station and tell them to let visitors know to park along side of road, boat trailers to launch and park trailer at top of hill halfway between entrance station and lower lot (this is not going to make boaters happy because a) what a pain in the arse and 2) there’s only 4 spots in the ‘upper parking’ before they have to start parking in the ranger station lot, directly across from entrance station)
1:30PM: Sell more ice. Agh! No change, so have to pull from the “emergency change” in the tool shed, thereby eliminating ALL small change (we have since gone to the bank, got $100 in small bills and $30 in quarters using our own petty cash, so we avoid the same issue)
1:45PM: Day use visitor rolls in, with their Class A and “toad” (car on a trailer). They need some place to park the beast for the day, so the we move the safety cone back about 10 feet. Now they have a place to park.
2:00PM – 2:30PM: Dangit. Laundry retrieved, folded and put away. Uninterrupted, even!
3:00PM: Flip “On Duty” sign back to “Off Duty”
3:01PM: “I know you just switched to off duty and I hate to bug ya, but could I get some ice and firewood?”
3:05PM – 4:30PM: Drive to store. Try to find items on list in a store with a layout that I’m still totally unfamiliar with, walking down each aisle at least twice and checking every end-cap (anyone who’s tried shopping in a new store in a new town knows what I’m talking about).
4:45PM – 5:30PM: Drive back. Unload groceries. Try to find room for things you’re pretty darn sure you had room for the first time you packed them, but now there seems to be less space. Also realize that now you have 6 cans of some thing because you forgot you had them or couldn’t remember where you stored them originally when you first packed.
5:35PM: Someone looking for a place to camp for the night. Still no spots (see 10:25AM). They’re prepared to ‘dry camp’ a.k.a. boondocking or ‘free camping’ (no amenities like water, bathrooms, etc), so we provide them instructions and a map to some really nice boondocking sites on state lands about 6 miles away [after the 1st few times of having to do so, we got frustrated with having turning people away, so we visited ranger stations, got maps and went exploring]. They were happy campers (see what I did there?).
6:00PM – 7:00PM: Flip sign back to “On Duty”. Plugin in after hours phone that receives calls to entrance station). Worry that it’s unusually quiet for so long and what storm is coming…
7:30PM: Walk down to Day Use restrooms. Grab toilet paper rolls, put on rubber gloves and check men’s bathroom. Restock TP
7:35PM – 7:50PM: Restock women’s restroom, empty the ‘feminine napkin’ cans, one of which contains a full diaper (Really? REALLY, people? Gross.)
7:55PM – 8:05PM: Check and restock “shower house” men’s and women’s restrooms
8:15PM: Another late arrival, looking for a site for the night. Boondocking map, FTW
8:20PM – 9:30PM: Quiet. Time to relax a bit.
9:30PM – 9:45PM: Walk down to day use area, along the shore and “The Rocks” start advising day use visitors that main gate closes at 10PM
9:55PM – 10:00PM: Hop in the gator, ride up to entrance, through the loop at the ranger station (to make sure nobody is hiding out in the day use area there. Nobody has, since I’ve done it, but it has happened). Lock gate at ranger station entrance. Lock main gate.
10:05PM: Flip sign to “Off Duty”. Park gator in shed. Call it a day.
11:41PM: Answer after hours phone. Give camper gate code to get back in (there’s an automatic barrier gate like this on the “exit” side of entrance booth that has a keypad to enter code. It gets broken. A lot.)
12:30AM: Another call for the gate code.
12:32AM: Finally. Bed time. No more callzzzZZzzz
So there you have it — a ‘day’ in the life of a camp host.
Out of curiosity, I’ve started keeping track of my steps as I’m walking or running as I perform my camp hosting duties.
If the trend continues, I’m gonna have thighs and calves of steel before I know it.